The Booneville School District apparently wasn’t ready for school bus advertising, but will it be ready for school bus seat belts.

The Arkansas House last Wednesday sent to Governor Asa Hutchinson a bill that would allow patrons of a school district to demand that the district’s school buses be equipped with seat belts.

To do so will require a petition drive and a millage increase. Under the bill by Mark McElroy, D-Tillar, if at least 10 percent of voters in the district sign a petition seeking seat belts, the district must hold an election to raise property taxes, and if the tax increase is approved the district must use the revenue to buy and install seat belts for all buses purchased or leased new after Jan. 1, 2018.

The district would have to require that students wear the seat belts when riding in a bus equipped with them.

Booneville Schools Superintendent John Parrish said equipping a current bus with the belts, which include shoulder harnesses is between $6,000 and $7,000 per bus and the school operates about 15 buses, for a total of $90,000 to $105,000.

Parrish told the Booneville School Board in February the bill the House passed was making its way through the legislative process and while he isn’t opposed to any idea concerning child safety, he is concerned with the need.

“A school bus is the safest form of transportation in the country. Students are 70 times more safe riding a school bus than if they drove themselves to school or rode with another person,” said Parrish. “The study I looked at wasn’t clear if the other person is a parent or another person, but it is a very safe form of transportation.”

That isn’t the only concern.

“I’ve talked to (transportation director) Jim Hix and he is concerned with implementation. How do we police it. You know when we start school we’ve got kindergartners who can’t open up their milk cartons,” said Parrish. “So there would have be some help getting that three-point or four-point harness belt fastened.

“I don’t think anybody in the school system is going to be against requiring seat belts on school buses in Arkansas but implementing it is what gives some people some concern.”


The Arkansas News Bureau contributed information used in this report.